Staunton, March 11 – How a people views its situation depends in large measure on what its members think is important. For many, this may be economic prosperity but for others, it may be the strength of their traditions. Most outsiders view the North Caucasus as a depressed region because it is poor, but people there don’t see things that way, Yekaterina Ageyeva says.
The director of distance learning programs at the North Caucasus branch of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service argues that health and a long life are far more important to the peoples of the North Caucasus than the kind of economic prosperity others like Russians give primary significance to (kavtoday.ru/article/5825).
“I don’t like the word ‘selfhood’” which is now in widespread use, the political scientist continues. “But for us” in the North Caucasus, this sense of self and uniqueness is critically important. It is a basis for pride and more than that gives people confidence in themselves even if they do not have the economic advantages of others.
“If we speak about our North Caucasus sense of self and uniqueness,” Ageyeva says, “then we have several ‘NOTs.’ The North Caucasus is NOT a depressed territory. The population of the North Caucasus is NOT completely poor. The region is NOT stagnating and archaic. And the people are NOT socially passive.”
She continues: “This is not a justification. It is a unique point of departure for us, for the population of the North Caucasus.” But it carries with it the risk that the peoples in the region will see themselves as not only different than but necessarily at odds with the Russians and other peoples of the Russian Federation.
To avoid that, the Russian media and Russian officials must recognize that the peoples of the North Caucasus evaluate their situation differently than Russians evaluate theirs and not treat the former as somehow defective or wrong and as things that must be changed. Instead, the Russian side must show respect for this difference or it will only deepen.
That is especially likely to happen as peoples in the region turn away from Russian television to the Internet, many of whose portals celebrate and promote this difference and call attention to the ways in which Russians and Moscow refuse to acknowledge it or support the North Caucasians in the pursuit of a future based on their own values.
“When we speak about a positive image of the future,” Ageyeva concludes, “we must understand that we ourselves must create it” on the basis of what is important to use and then “act to improve these conditions.” Otherwise, she warns, circumstances will force the issue and define a very different future.